Cooking with Beer: Chocolate Stout Cake

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brewday: Saison. Or, How Not to Brew.

Yeah, so my parents' freakishly groomed cat will be the mascot of today's brewday.

I am Lucy. Destroyer of worlds.

Ok, so some times things just get out of hand. On almost every single brewday I've had, I've managed to do something wrong. Something either spills or I hurt myself or I realize I'm missing something important. For instance, my first all grain batch featured a stuck mash. Nonetheless, I managed to unstick it and even though it wasn't the greatest situation, I still ended up with a good beer in the end. Usually its not an issue to readjust and improvise something on the fly. Well, today didn't go so smoothly but that's okay because there's still stuff to learn from and hey... maybe the beer will turn out all right anyway.

Inverting Sugar

The first thing I had to do was get my sugar inverted. If you remember, my recipe called for 12oz of amber candi sugar. After doing some reading on the internet and in a good book called Radical Brewing, I learned that homebrew store bought candi sugar is a rip off. Its really just sucrose (table sugar) and a process you can do at home.

The first step is to add a little bit of lemon juice for the citric acid, a little bit of water, and then boil it. I actually added too much water, I think. So don't do what I did.

Once it gets to the color you want, you want to pour it out onto a baking sheet with some wax paper laid down.

It'll harden again. To speed this process along, I stuck it in the fridge. Once it came out, it was pretty solid so I broke it up so I could get it into my boil without much issue.

I think there's some debate as to whether or not inverting sugar is necessary. Some people seem to think you can throw table sugar into beer without much issue, others seem to think it will make your beer taste like cider. I figured, ehh, why not? Its not really that much extra effort.

Behold, my state of the art mill!

After getting that stuck mash the last time I brewed, I figured I would revert the mill to the factory setting. Here's my milled grains.


As always, this is where it started going down hill. Here's my set up for y'all to pine over it:

One thing you might've noticed is that this is set up outside. And its the middle of the New York winter. Well, it was really nice almost until the minute I had to turn on the tank. Then it became a windy, nasty day from hell. The result was that my fire kept getting blown out and I had to sit out in the cold watching the fire instead of setting it on auto pilot and getting warm.

Last time, I mashed a little too hot. I hit 185 degrees for my strike water last time and my mash ended up being at around 160, so this time I did 175 and it ended up just right at around 150.

While that sat for an hour, I sanitized my fermentor and prepped my boil additions.

Again, I ended up with a stuck sparge. I think I'm gonna switch out the square cooler for a cylinder and get a false bottom. This shiz is ridic, yo. At times it was so bad, I seriously considered just tossing it, or just fermenting what I had and seeing what the area's wild yeast could do. I also didn't clear the sparge so easily this time and ended up losing a good deal of the mash as a consequence. I ended up with about 5 gallons going into the boil when the target was 6.5, which would've yielded a 5 gallon batch. Oh well!

The Other Stuff

I had to crush 1 gram of grains of paradise to add to the boil. I didn't have a spare grinder so my brilliant plan was to stick it in a ziploc bag and hit it with a mallet gently until they popped open. It worked!

I've also learned that its always a good idea to arrange your boil additions before you have to put them in. That way, when the boil is going you don't have to worry about measuring out hops or looking for this or that.

If you noticed the hop bag, its because I'm a moron and ordered whole leaf Cascade hops instead of pellets. Pellets are much easier to work with and they are the same as whole leaf hops in terms of quality so I usually go with those.

Whole leaf hops are pretty though.

I also decided to go with some Irish moss because the wort looked so cloudy that I figured some Irish moss would help make it look a little better.

The Boil

After being disappointed that I only collected 5 gallons from the mash, deciding not to lauter again, I began the boil. I also was not happy with the color, but since this is the first brew I'm doing that's supposed to be fairly light in color, maybe fermenting and letting the sediment settle a bit will give this beer a more appealing color.

Waiting for the hot break.

After that, I chilled it down to 65 pretty quickly. Pitched the yeast. Stuck it in the closet and covered it in a blanket to keep it nice and warm so that saison yeast can go to town.

Hopefully it works out in the end. The worst of all possible brewdays usually are redeemed in the end when you finally drink the beer. I think my next batch (the Citra DIPA) will mostly be done on the stove top, which is easy because it is a smaller batch.


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